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Church shares thanks for first responders

PENNSDALE — “It’s a calling. A full-time, non-paid job.”

That’s what Genie Wines, emergency medical services captain for Muncy Township Volunteer Fire Co. said, as she and more than a dozen other first responders recently were honored by a church pastor and the congregation here in the village.

The setting was serene at the Pennsdale Trinity United Methodist Church on Village Road.

Congregants gathered beneath a large pavilion in a freshly cut grass field. Chairs were set up near the altar, which was beneath the pavilion, as was the offering, and most of the parishioners sat in the shade.

The first responders arrived ahead of the worship service which began at 9:30 a.m. The men and women, some wearing their shirts and patches representing their stations, parked the fire engines and the ambulances and walked over toward the chairs.

The open seating and outdoor service was held due to the restrictions and safety precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following several Bible readings, Pastor Richard DeMarte said besides 9/11, the two days afterward, Sept. 12 and 13, were also some of the most important dates in American history — the days after tragedy struck, when Americans joined together as one nation, under God, indivisible and praying and getting renewed strength both for the spiritual and physical task ahead of searching for survivors and clearing away the tons of debris.

The pastor said the terrorist attack is a constant reminder to those who are protected that first responders run toward danger when others run away. It is also a spiritual reminder that God is an ever-present father, always willing to bless and to forgive, slow to anger and full of mercy.

He asked for all first responders — police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, or anyone helping in some way who could be honored with the tribute to stand as the congregation applauded.

“We tip our hats to you,” DeMarte said.

The pastor then described how these individuals are committed servants who protect the community from life-threatening and life-altering moments and events.

He picked up a booklet of daily devotions, first written for the military at the end of World War II and heading into the Korean War. Each first responder who would put down their station, most of which were the local firehouse, were going to receive a copy of the daily devotionals, DeMarte said.

Today, there are an estimated 500,000 copies of these booklets, he said.

They can be used by first responders after a long-day or before a shift to provide blessing, restorative power and fodder in which to meditate after a stressful and sometimes frightening shift.

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